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Diagnosis and Improvement of Seoul’s Planning System Operation

Da-Mi Maeng, In-Hee Kim, Jae-Seob Yang, Su-Youn Seong

The Seoul Metropolitan Government unveiled the "2030 Seoul Neighbourhood Plan" in 2015 following the publication of the "2030 Seoul Plan" (Seoul Comprehensive Plan) in 2014. Based on this, Seoul's urban planning system was created from the pre-existing two-tier structure, consisting of a comprehensive plan, a neighbourhood plan, and an urban management plan. 
In addition, the monitoring system for Seoul Comprehensive Plan is conducted every year to diagnose urban changes and performance of the plan. Along with the completion of the 2040 Seoul Comprehensive Plan, it is necessary to examine the achievements and limitations of Seoul’s planning system and find a direction for improvement.
The issues for the operation of Seoul’s planning system acts as a factor that reduces the operability and feasibility of urban planning. In order to improve the urban planning system, it is necessary not only to supplement each plan, but also to respond to major issues in system operation. Major issues are addressed by analysing the contents of related plans, conducting expert surveys, holding several expert consultative meetings with specific topics and hearing opinions of related department in Seoul  Metropolitan Government (SMG). Three main issues are an insufficient role for intermediate-phase plans, ambiguous role sharing among plans, and limitations in responding to rapidly changing conditions.

The planning process in Seoul needs to be enhanced while keeping the current three-stage method. It is necessary for Seoul's planning system to be cooperative, low-cost, and high-efficient in order to reflect Seoul's unique traits. Through this, Seoul must realize the future vision outlined in the Comprehensive Plan, increase its competitiveness on the world stage, and enhance the quality of life for its people.
The Seoul Comprehensive Plan should direct the sub-plans and be closely linked to the Municipal Operation Plan. The plans for special areas and the Neighbourhood Plan, as the intermediate-phase plan, should strengthen the content linkage, but clarify their roles. It is necessary to establish a feedback system through monitoring of Seoul Comprehensive Plan. The achievements of the plan should be regularly monitored, and it should provide directions for the next Comprehensive Plan in the future.
Detailed improvement measures can be summarized as follows. First, since the Comprehensive Plan is the highest spatial plan based on the National Land Planning and Utilization Act, the contents of the plan focused on the spatial sector. It will also strengthen the role of the Plans for Special Areas and strengthen links with the Municipal Operation Plan. Second, the role of each participating entity is re-established in the process of planning and implementing the Seoul Comprehensive Plan. Third, it is necessary to strengthen the functions of the Plans for Special Areas to enhance the competitiveness of Seoul.
Fourth, the Neighbourhood Plan clarifies its purpose of the plan as an area-customized plan. It is proposed that the plan plays a significant role in supporting the daily lives of residents and focusing on issues in the neighbourhood. Fifth, it is necessary to establish the roles of the SMG and autonomous districts (Gu Offices) in planning and implementing the Neighbourhood Plan. The SMG needs to plan a Regional Plan and administratively and financially support the Neighbourhood Plans planned by Gu Offices. Sixth, the Seoul Comprehensive Plan needs to contain the integrated policy directions for Urban Management Plan. Finally, the monitoring results of Seoul Comprehensive Plan needs to play a critical role in establishing the next plan.
Institutionally, it is required to strengthen relevant policies to allow for flexible modification of the plan's cycle, content, and roles. Furthermore, the SMG needs to prepare an institutional basis to strengthen the role and function of the plans for special areas through the revision of the SMG’s planning ordinance.